Local Boy Finds His Voice With Autism Speech Device Donation

CLIFTON PARK, NY (NEWS10) – Helping a local boy with autism find his voice: His mother, his school and a nonprofit have made it their mission. One piece of technology will make communication a reality for 4-year-old Hunter.

Hunter, who attends Helping Hands School in Clifton Park, has non-verbal autism. Speech therapist Jennifer D’Addio taught Hunter how to use an iPad program where he can click buttons with pictures to reflect his wants, needs and feelings.

“’Yes’ and ‘no’, I use a lot with him. The ‘help’ is huge because often our students can’t ask for help and they are very frustrated,” D’Addio explained.

Hunter’s mother, Virginia Ackerknecht, wanted Hunter to be able to communicate this way with her siblings back home. She applied for a grant through the nonprofit Jake’s Help from Heaven, so he could have his own iPad to use outside of school. “It’s basically him getting his own voice,” Ackerknecht explained. “So that means a lot.”

Jake’s Help from Heaven was started by Heather Straughter and her husband. Their son, Jake, died in 2010 after numerous medical issues. Since then, they have made it their mission to help other families who are trying to support people with complex needs and disabilities. Making deliveries, like Hunter’s iPad, is Straughter’s favorite part of what she does.

“Knowing that you are making a difference, and knowing that you are giving someone a voice they haven’t had, or access to a comfortable seat at the dinner table, or seeing a specialist who ‘He wouldn’t normally be able to see, it’s amazing,’ Straughter said.

“Helping Hands and Jake’s Help from Heaven have changed our lives,” Ackerknecht said, “and I’m so grateful for that.”

Jake’s Help from Heaven is accepting grant applications for anyone living within 100 miles of Saratoga Springs. You can find instructions for applying online.

Comments are closed.